The news made headlines across all media today. Times health website: “Scientists Say Baby Born with HIV Apparently Cured.” Which has to be a very good thing. Those infected with HIV now have the likelihood of living many more years, with proper care HIV is a chronic condition. But not having it at all is much, much better than treating it for a lifetime.
One little caveat (I’m such a negative person), the newborn was “treated aggressivly with antiretroviral drugs starting around 30 hours after birth…” (NYTimes, March 4, 2013). Are the long-term effects known for these drugs? Of course, this is a case where the doctors needed to save a life and they seemingly did it. First life, then deal with the fall out. Adverse effects of drugs are part of medicine, it is the risk of using drugs. In a case like this, the risk of a possible adverse event in the future pales to the immediate benefit of a life without HIV.
Several doctors were quoted in the various articles about this breakthrough – how it could become the new protocol. This aggressive treatment could be used especially well in places where prenatal care is scarce and therefore pregnant HIV women aren’t given the prophylactic treatments that can help their fetuses.
Let’s all hope that this truly is a cure. But let’s not rush to give it to every child suspected of an HIV-positive mother. This is one path to a cure. Let’s keep looking and testing until we know (not just guess) that we’ve found the best path – one that blasts HIV out of a newborn and allows that child to grow into healthy adulthood without adverse side effects.